Open call at Telebrands for America's next PedEgg. If you've ever seen a commercial for Doggy Steps, EZ Combs, Windshield Wonder, or yes, that inescapable Ped Egg, now's your chance to join their ranks. Hundreds of inventors will descend on Telebrands' headquarters in Fairfield, NJ tomorrow for an open call to pitch their product ideas to CEO AJ Khubani. Each inventor gets five minutes or less. According to the press release, Telebrands is experiencing the strongest year in its more than 20-year history thanks to breakouts like a PedEgg "and a weakening economy." The open call's reality show-esque flair is no accident. Says his PR rep, "Just think of it as "American Idol" for inventors — with AJ Khubani as Simon Cowell." Check out New York magazine's profile of Khubani from a couple years back about "the late-night pitchman who makes millions preying on the simple desire to live a less anxious life."
Calling out abusive VCs. Perhaps inspired by Jason Calacanis's rant aimed at angel investors who charge entrepreneurs to pitch them, Fred Wilson is "calling bullshit" on venture capitalists who demand outsized equities stakes during term sheet negotiations. "Over the past few months, I've heard countless VCs utter the words 'we need to own' followed by some number," Wilson writes. "Often it is 20pcnt, but it is frequently 30pcnt....And this 'need' is just greed. We don't need to own any specific percentage." He writes that his best investment in recent years was a 10 percent stake in a startup. (No, it wasn't Twitter, he says in the comments.) The lesson: Don't be afraid to walk away from a VC who is trying to strong arm you.
Getting creative for startup funding. After constant rejection from the VC community, some entrepreneurs are getting creative and snagging some serious funds, reports the Wall Street Journal. After investing his life savings and getting shut down by investors, Sean Conway, the founder of Notehall.com, submitted his idea--a website where college students can buy and sell class notes--to DreamIt Ventures, a three-month entrepreneurial workshop, and walked away with about $500,000 in funding at the end of the program. After that, he went on ABC's Shark Tank, a TV show that allows entrepreneurs to pitch ideas and compete for money, and landed another $90,000. "Smarter entrepreneurs are looking to put more sweat equity into the company, not magic $100 bills," says Bo Fishback, vice president of entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. Here are some more ways to fund your startup if the VCs won't bite.
How to get the most out of Google AdWords. AdWords pay-per-click service makes it easier for small businesses to find customers online, but just because it's easy to set up a campaign doesn't mean it always works the way you want it to. The New York Times talked to seven different companies to find out what they learned, sometimes the hard way, about how to make the most of AdWords. By choosing broad keywords like "plus size dresses" Catherine Wood was getting a lot of new customers for her site LaGrandeDame.com, but spending more than $200 a head to do so. She learned to use brackets to focus tightly on specific products like [David Meister black dress] and to specify negative keywords (at no cost to her campaign) so that, for example, she no longer had to pay for browsers searching for Halloween costumes who clicked on her ad. Total Attorneys, a Chicago company that takes on outsourced work from small legal firms, learned to create landing pages tied to the ads they were running.
Stimulus dollars revealed. The federal government today launched an interactive map that reports the recipients, and amounts, of federal contracts awarded so far through the Recovery Act. Later this month, the map will be updated with information on federal grants and loans given through the stimulus package as well as contracts awarded by state and local goverments. (Via The Huffington Post.)
A hot-dog and a dream. Today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the inspiring story of Chris Schutte, a 48-year-old, first-time entrepreneur who is risking everything to follow his dream. What does Schutte dream about? The perfect hot-dog. His invention, the Hotdog EZ Bun Steamer, is a wire contraption which fits over a pot and allows people to boil a hot dog and steam the bun at the same time. Schutte spent years tinkering on his contraption, but it wasn't until he was laid off from his sales-management job in 2007 that he decided to focus on it full time. Since then, he's spent more than $56,000 bringing his idea to market. So far, he's had two appearances on QVC and a test-marketing effort is planned with a national grocery-story chain. Still, he has his concerns. "This is either going to get big or I'm going to be living in a box under a bridge."
China's exports are booming. The world's largest trade show opened in Guangzhou, China yesterday and according to the New York Times from the looks of the show, the combo of cheap currency and low wages has managed to usher in a boom in Chinese exports. Says the Times, "China's many policies to help exporters, from tax breaks to currency market intervention, have relieved unemployment in China — but at the expense of contributing to it in other countries, and that is starting to fan trade tensions." Last month, President Obama imposed tariffs starting at 35 percent for tires from China.
Digg triples revenue forecast. Serving ads on your site that mimic your content is a seemingly dodgy move with the potential to alienate your audience. But Digg executives are giving their users the power to vote on the ads just as they would on the rest of the site's content, and they expect the new approach will triple their revenue according to The Wall Street Journal. Additionally, unlike many online ad campaigns which direct users to corporate home pages, the most popular ads on Digg tend to link to news stories and blog posts.
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